Britain’s Cineworld Group has announced a proposed deal to acquire the movie theater business of Netherlands-headquartered Cinema City International that values the latter at about £503M ($828M). Cinema City, which trades on the Warsaw Stock Exchange, operates in seven countries across Central and Eastern Europe and Israel. Cineworld is the UK and Ireland’s leading cinema group in terms of box office revenues and also operates theaters under the Picturehouse brand. The tie-up would create the second-biggest exhibition business in Europe with the No. 1 or No. 2 postition by number of screens in each of the regions where it is involved. The combined company would have 201 sites and 1,852 digital screens. Cineworld says Cinema City brings “attractive growth opportunities in developing economies and markets in which multiplex screen penetration is relatively low, with low admissions per capita, high population per screen and low average ticket prices.” Cinema City grew its revenue by 14.2% in the period 2009-2012 and has plans in place for screen openings. The deal, which needs to be approved by shareholders, will see Cineworld chairman Anthony Bloom continue in that role for the enlarged group. Mooky Greidinger, currently CEO of Cinema City, will be CEO of the new entity.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Cineworld Founder And CEO Sets Retirement; ‘Gravity’ Launches With $9M In China; More
Cineworld Founder and CEO Steve Wiener To Retire In March
More than 18 years after founding the UK’s leading cinema chain, Cineworld CEO Steve Wiener is retiring. The company said today that the 44-year industry veteran will step away on March 31. “In 1995 my wife Jenny and I wrote a business plan to start a cinema company,” Wiener said in a statement. ”We expected over a five year period to open five-seven multiplex cinemas and sell it on to one of the big operators. Today, Cineworld is the No. 1 cinema chain in the UK and has been for more than three years.” Said Cineworld Chairman Anthony Bloom: “Steve has led the company with great distinction from the first day of its founding and has mentored and developed an outstanding management team. He will leave the business in fine shape.”
‘Gravity’ Blasts Off In China With $9M For First Two Days
Gravity has landed in China, and it’s pulling in plenty of moviegoers. Warner Bros said today that the Alfonso Cuarón space drama starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney took in nearly $9 million in its first two days in China. The film generated $4.7 million from 5,854 theaters on its opening day Tuesday and an additional $4.2 million on Wednesday. It’s the studio’s biggest non-holiday opening in China. The biggest opening ever for any U.S. film in China was this year’s Iron Man 3, which debuted to $21 million in its first day, which was China’s Labor Day holiday on May 1 and made $64.5 million in its opening weekend.
Australia’s Nine Entertainment Seeks $700 Million U.S. Debt Facility
Nine Entertainment Co. CEO David Gyngell and advisers UBS are approaching U.S. lenders this week to set up a $700 million debt facility as part of the company’s recapitalization. Standard & Poor’s has given the proposed raising a preliminary BB credit rating with a stable outlook. According to local media, the ratings agency has given Nine the same rating for a separate $700 million senior secured term loan it aims to arrange in Australia. Existing creditors are due to meet on January 21 to approve a $3.4 billion debt-for-equity swap that will result in U.S. hedge funds Apollo Global Management and Oaktree Capital emerge as the controlling shareholders, replacing previous owner CVC Asia Pacific. Nine posted a $972 million loss in 2011-12, mostly due to asset write-downs, but the network saw a ratings resurgence last year, finishing No. 1 in prime-time in the key demos 25-54, 18-49 and 16-39 in the five capital cities, driven by The Voice, The Block and Big Brother. The new owners reportedly are planning an IPO within 18 months, which S&P said could lead to an improvement in its rating. –Don Groves
Shout! Acquires EuropaCorp. Titles
Shout! Factory has picked up U.S. rights to the EuropaCorp. films, The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adèle Blanc-Sec, directed by Luc Besson, and A Monster In Paris by Bibo Bergeron. Shout will roll the films out on a cross-platform release including home entertainment, VOD, SVOD and television. The César-winning Adèle Blanc-Sec is an adaptation of the Jacques Tardi comic book series and was released in France in 2010. Louise Bourgoin and Mathieu Amalric star. Shark Tale director Bergeron’s Monster is a CG-animated adventure based on his own original story about an inventor, his best friend and a monkey who inadvertently create a monster with a talent for music. Vanessa Paradis, Sean Lennon, Adam Goldberg, Danny Huston, Bob Balaban, Catherine O’Hara and Jay Harrington form the voice cast.
Scott Free London Lines Up ‘The Fishing Fleet’
Ridley Scott’s Scott Free London has acquired film rights to the Anne de Courcy novel The Fishing Fleet. The company will develop the project as a feature with Scott Free’s Liza Marshall producing. The book is a social history of husband hunting by young British women in India. The deal was negotiated by Blake Friedmann’s Conrad Williams and Carlo Dusi for Scott Free London.
‘Everybody Dance Now’ Stumbles But Murdochs Keep Music Playing
Everybody Dance Now, a new Australian series hosted by Lachlan Murdoch’s wife Sarah Murdoch and featuring American “dance masters” Kelly Rowland and Jason Derülo, has stumbled badly on Network Ten, whose chairman is … Lachlan Murdoch. The Sunday night premiere averaged just 598,000 viewers against Nine’s debuting Big Brother and local crime series Underbelly: Badness. The audience dropped to 304,000 for the second episode on Monday night. Ten insists it’s sticking with the show produced by FremantleMedia Australia, although it’s been cut back to one hour on Sunday nights from three hours over two nights. Offering more than $A450,000 ($472,000) in prizes, the show aims to find the most entertaining dance act in Oz. - Don Groves
Alan Partridge Returns To UK TV Ahead Of Big Screen Debut
Funnyman Steve Coogan is bringing his signature character, Alan Partridge, back to UK television audiences next year via Sky Atlantic. The show, Mid Morning Matters 2, follows a first series that was aired on Sky Atlantic this year. It sees the hapless, politically incorrect radio presenter working at a shabby radio station in North Norfolk, England. Filming has begun on the series that’s produced by Coogan and Veep’s Armando Iannucci along with Baby Cow chief exec Henry Normal. There’s an Alan Partridge feature in the works that starts shooting in January for an August 16, 2013 UK release which StudioCanal is handling. Coogan and Iannucci penned that script with frequent Sacha Baron Cohen collaborator Peter Baynham and Neil and Rob Gibbons. Declan Lowney is directing.
2ND UPDATE: A 5 AM walkthrough of the Royal Wedding route took place today complete with carriages, trumpeters and up to 1,000 members of the Armed Forces wearing full ceremonial uniform. Meanwhile, the first spectator has claimed his spot right outside Westminster Abbey, kitted out with flags, a sleeping bag and an umbrella. But when Prince William slides the wedding ring on Kate Middleton’s finger on April 29, will there really be an expected global audience of 2 billion watching? NBC keeps saying ”it’s completely false” that it has cut back on the number of pre-taped segments because U.S. networks may have overestimated America’s appetite for all things House of Windsor compared to 1981, when William’s father Prince Charles wed Lady Diana Spencer. This time, around 140 million U.S. viewers are expected to watch. Worldwide, when 800 million watched the Charles-Di nuptials, this time Tim Santhouse, operational manager at AP Television News Global Media Services tells me ”the volume of broadcasters coming to London, and the number of camera set-ups involved, is unprecedented in terms of interest from overseas broadcasters and the proliferation of news outlets.” AP will be providing camera set-ups and satellite uplinks for around 60 networks doing direct-to-camera pieces including Canada’s CTV, Australia’s Channel 9, and Arab news channel Al-Jazeera. The 62 broadcaster members of the European Broadcast Union -– which include ARD in Germany, France 2 and RAI in Italy –- will be getting their clean feed directly from the BBC. Sam Dubberly, who is in charge of forwarding BBC coverage, tells me, ”the closer we get to the wedding, the more requests we’ve been getting from members.” But NHK, the Japanese state broadcaster, won’t only out of respect for its still-grieving population in the wake of the earthquake/tsunami disaster.
Talk about a high-tech event: one estimate has 8,000 TV and radio reporters and support staff traveling from around the world into London to cover the nuptials, which start at 3 AM PT. Around 140 outside broadcast trucks with satellite uplinks will be parked in nearby Green Park, with every major world broadcaster lining up cameras along the procession route. The BBC will be using 21 cameras inside the scene of the wedding itself, Westminster Abbey, some of them wireless and remote-controlled. But Prince Charles’ office stopped Rupert Murdoch from shooting the wedding in 3D, saying there just wasn’t enough room for his extra equipment in the Abbey.
Here’s who’s trying to cash in on Friday’s wedding day:
Average ticket price rose 7.4% to £4.93 per ticket ($7.70) during the first half of 2010, mainly due to cinemagoers paying a 3D premium. This ticket price increase drove the UK exhibitor’s 4.1% rise in box office to £111.7 million in the 26 weeks to July 1. First-half admissions actually fell 3% to 22.7 million.
The UK exhibitor’s total revenue was up 3.8% at £162 million. Earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose 5.2% at £24.4 million.
Cineworld has singled out Harry Potter – Deathly Hallows 1, the first 3D film in the franchise, as one of its second-half tentpoles. Announcing Cineworld’s first-half results, CEO Steve Weiner, has also talked up Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Trader in this autumn’s 3D releases. Cineworld expects to show 18 3D movies between July and December. Over 20% of Cineworld’s first-half admissions came from 3D releases, compared with 8% a year ago.
Now that the 3D novelty is wearing off, I’m starting to resent paying extra for a pair of dark glasses. Do you have to pay extra if a band climaxes a gig with fireworks? It’s just part of the show, isn’t it? And is it just me or are some 3D movie screenings awfully dark? I’ve been told that some cinemas turn down the 3D projectors to stop expensive bulbs from overheating and blowing.
The UK multiplex operator says total revenue, including ticket sales and popcorn, rose by 3.7% in the 26 weeks to July 1. Box office has increased by 4.1% including this month’s World Cup month. But the ticket sales rise was offset by a 3.2% decline in popcorn and Coke sales. Other income rose by 31.4%. Cinema chains will no doubt welcome England getting kicked out of the World Cup on Sunday. Tumbleweed has been rolling through the multiplexes during the tournament. Next time we Brits invent a sport, we should just keep it to ourselves. That way we might at least win something.